How Does Xanax Affect the Brain?

woman in bed taking a pill

Today, the widespread abuse of Xanax is a significant health concern in the USA. Recent statistics estimate that about 125 000 people visit emergency rooms each year due to the recreational abuse of Xanax. Many believe Xanax is safe because medical professionals commonly prescribe the drug to treat panic disorders, anxiety disorders, and other related conditions. If you or a loved one have symptoms of Xanax abuse, addiction treatment for drug abuse is recommended.

However, long-term use of benzodiazepines, like Xanax, can affect the brain’s normal functioning, leading to a physical dependence on the drug and other harmful side effects that trigger short-term or long-term damage to brain function. This blog discusses the impact of Xanax on the brain, along with the potential for addiction to Xanax. How does Xanax affect the brain?

What is Xanax?

Xanax, a benzodiazepine, is a controlled substance used to treat various mental disorders, including anxiety and panic disorders. Although Xanax is an effective medication for treating conditions, using it recreationally can pose various health risks, mainly when used with other substances, such as alcohol.

What Does Xanax Do?

Xanax is only recommended for short-term use of not more than four weeks for its calming effects. However, the prescription of the drug has recently increased at an alarming rate, with more people using it for longer periods than recommended. When a person uses the drug for a longer time or abuses it at will, it will hijack the brain thought processes and interfere with other crucial functioning of the brain, including emotional responses and consciousness.

Ideally, Xanax increases the levels of GABA, a brain chemical that help calm a person’s brain. GABA reduces or halts the substances that excite the brain and lead to anxiety or panic. Unlike other benzodiazepines, Xanax can trigger the brain’s reward system, which puts a user at a higher risk of addiction.

Short-Term Side Effects of Xanax

The concentration of Xanax in the blood reaches its peak 1 to 2 hours after ingestion. Compared to other benzodiazepines, Xanax’s peak intensity lasts 3 to 4 hours and has a shorter half-life of 11.2 hours. This implies the drug exits the body more quickly than other medications with a longer half-life. 

Owing to its shorter half-life, one must take Xanax more often to achieve the desired sedative effects. This ultimately raises the risks of an addition. 

Some of the short-term effects of Xanax on the brain include:

  • Headaches
  • Impaired cognition
  • Digestive distress
  • Blurred vision
  • Sedation
  • The rapid development of tolerance
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Decreased blood pressure, respiratory function, and heart rate.

Long-Term Side Effects of Xanax

The long-term effects of Xanax vary depending on several factors, including duration and severity of usage, overall health, age, gender, weight, and presence of co-occurring mental health disorders. Abusing Xanax can lead to long-term side effects, including cognitive decline characterized by memory lapses and impaired functioning in several brain regions. 

Some of the long-term side effects of Xanax abuse include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Mood changes
  • Memory problems
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Increased anxiety
  • Delirium
  • Heart attack
  • Coma
  • Nausea and vomiting

It is worth noting long-term side effects of Xanax abuse are generally difficult to treat. A person may undergo an extensive treatment program before realizing the desired results.

Can Xanax Cause Seizures?

If a person uses high Xanax dosages, intense withdrawal symptoms can occur during detox or if a person stops using the drug. The withdrawal symptoms can include seizures and psychotic episodes characterized by complete loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. An abnormal amount of electrical activity in the brain triggers these seizures. Seizures can become so severe to a level of causing fatalities.

Xanax Brain Damage

Xanax abuse can cause considerable brain damage. Generally, long-term Xanax brain damage affects how a person behaves or thinks. Common effects of Xanax brain damage include:

  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Manic behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

What Does Coming Off From Xanax Feel Like?

As mentioned earlier, people can become easily dependent on Xanax. After using the drug for a long time, the body gets used to its effects, meaning the likelihood of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms is high once they stop taking it. One should reduce Xanax dosage slowly over time to minimize the severity of these symptoms. 

Manufacturers recommend a dosage reduction of fewer than 0.5 milligrams (mg) every three days. However, it is advisable to seek a doctor’s advice on a suitable discontinuation schedule based on one’s general health and experience with the drug. 

Some of the common withdrawal symptoms from the drug include:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Muscle cramps
  • Stomach cramps
  • Mild feelings of dissatisfaction

Treatment for Xanax Addiction

The following are some of the treatment options for Xanax addiction:

  • Medical detox: a medical detox offered in rehab helps wean off Xanax with as little distress as possible. Withdrawal symptoms from the effects of Xanax can be brutal. Medical professionals heavily monitor patients placed in a medical detox program to ensure they are not in any danger of any severe side effects.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT helps a client determine their patterns of thoughts and behaviors that triggered Xanax abuse and addiction. The therapist helps the patient come up with healthier and more positive ways to tackle the root issues behind the abuse. CBT can also equip patients with coping skills to help them avoid the temptation to use the substance. The therapy sessions can also be used to address the presence of co-occurring disorders such as mental health disorders.
  • Medications: medications such as gabapentin, Chlordiazepoxide, Clonazepam, and Diazepam can be used to taper off Xanax addiction and ease the withdrawal process. Studies also show certain antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and beta blockers help ease off the withdrawal symptoms.

Recover through mind, body, and soul at Bellagio RTC 

Xanax is a highly deceptive and dangerous drug. Abusing it can lead to life-threatening impacts on one’s brain. Generally, Xanax withdrawal symptoms range from moderate and unpleasant to extremely dangerous, with the potential to cause death. It is recommended to seek a detox treatment for benzodiazepines.

At Bellagio RTC, our experienced and compassionate medical team assists clients in managing their Xanax withdrawal symptoms and overcoming their Xanax addictions. We help patients through every step of their treatment program while ensuring they are mentally and physically safe to commence their journey to full recovery. 

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.


More Posts

woman practicing yoga in the desert

Desert Wellness Center

Recovering from addiction almost always requires temporary respite from a stressful and heavily conditioned environment. For those in recovery, many familiar settings are often replete

people in therapy

Detox vs. Rehab

With addiction recovery, there are two main options: detox and rehab. Detox removes toxins from the body and is usually the first step in addiction

adult man listening to music

Music Therapy

There are a lot of treatment options designed to help with recovery from addiction. In many cases, addicts need to choose a treatment method that

Send Us A Message

Start Your Journey Today

Contact our specialists at Bellagio in the Desert to find how we can help your needs